There was a period in jazz where melody was everything, and I mean ev-er-y-thing! It didn't last too very long, but one of its champions was George Shearing, who was extremely well equipped to understand the mode because he'd already been established in be-bop and swing and knew how to play around with, as well as highly respect, what was written when he came to someone's work. He'd also studied what Satie, Delius, and Debussy were doing in their oeuvres, incorporating a number of elements into what became known as "Shearing's Voicing" (involving a double melody block chord and a fifth element doubling it all up an octave below). It was this knowledge of, and inventiveness within, the classical modes that transformed the blind child of lower class working parents into a jazz genius, an OBE, and finally into knighthood, to become Sir George Shearing. I ain't kidding.
The pianist died a couple of years ago at the age of 91, but, in 1983, bassist Don Thompson got together with the gentle lion just to play in a comfortable setting, Shearing's home, with no pressures whatsoever—no producers, no agents, no audience, just the four of them: Shearing, his piano, Thompson, and his bass. The cloistered sessions soon became a suggestion to record some of what was going down so beautifuly, which became this disc…published 30 years later. Well, better late than always, I never say, and labels like Jazzhaus and Classic Jazz Records have been trotting out a pirate's boatload of gems over the years, so you can count this one in with them as well. The entire disc is just solos and duos, and Shearing shines, as elegant as he'd ever been, At Home glowing like a winter night's fireplace warming flesh, bones, and heart.
George's take on Laura vividly reveals his classicalist background (and you can toss in a bit of Schuman and Gershwin with the Impressionists the man idolized), a shimmering masterpiece co-mixing fidelity and interpretation. Thompson, on the other hand, was dazzled by the one and only time Shearing covered Beautiful Love, the closer to this disc, and it is indeed unusual, a midground between Johann Sebastian and Erik with Mancini forming the glue adhesing Moonlight Sonata to a Satie gnossienne. It was meant to cause the listener to drift into reverie and succeeds at that, a fitting denouement to the entire gig.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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